| Apr 25, 2013

Even though a climate of acrimony and mistrust has become entrenched at Frontenac County Council in recent months, the decision that council made last week to defer their budget deliberations until May 2 is hard to understand.

The budget was on the agenda last week, but before the agenda was approved, Councilor Jones from Frontenac Islands put forward a motion of censure against Warden Janet Gutowski and CAO Liz Savill for not calling a special meeting regarding the budget and for filling up the council agenda with “fluff and bubble” delegations.

The County Deputy Clerk Jeanette Amini, did not see how the motion of censure fit with the rules of the Ontario Municipal Act. A motion was put to Council to remove the budget from the meeting's agenda and send it to a special meeting.

David Jones seemed to be saying that the budget was the number one priority of the County. Treasurer Marian VanBruinessen had pointed out in a report to Council that the local townships as well as the City of Kingston need the budget as soon as possible to finalise their spending plans for the year. The Municipal Act requires upper tier municipalities to have a budget in place by the end of March. Why then would anyone vote to put the whole off for another two weeks?

Instead, virtually everything else on the agenda could have been deferred. Sure enough, with the budget off the agenda, Council proceeded to spend several hours last Wednesday debating the fine points of proposed amendments to their procedural bylaw.

The procedural bylaw may not be fluff and bubble, but neither is it a pressing matter.

The upshot of all this is that by the time Frontenac County Council sits down on May 2, six weeks will have passed from the time they rejected, without explanation, a budget that called for a decrease of 0.34 per cent in the amount of money to be levied from ratepayers.

When the budget was rejected back in March, two things did not happen. Council did not give any instructions to staff regarding changes they needed to see in the budget in order to support it, and they also did not ask for a special budget meeting. This was a failing of the council, not of the warden or the CAO.

The document they will see on May 2 is the identical document they rejected.

I have spoken to three of the five members of council who voted against the budget in March. They each had their own reasons. One was concerned about the cost of running Fairmount Home; one was concerned about county reserve funds;, and one was concerned that the county overspends on everything that it does.

These are all legitimate concerns. However it is hard to see how they will be addressed on May 2.

It is more likely that council will simply cut some of the budget lines on that day without considering the financial and operational implications.

But that would not be a demonstration of good governance.

It would be better, in the time between now and May 2, if members of council did some homework, asked for clarification about the budget numbers from the treasurer in advance of the meeting, and came in with something to offer to the process.

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